The Story of Papillon Belle

Papillon Belle was a passion project of mine completely self-funded by my work as a graphic designer and illustrator.

Everything I know about butterfly conservation, butterfly farming, jewellery making and working with butterfly wings I learnt while developing this range.

Looking back at my Papillon Belle journey

2010
What sparked the idea?

I inherited jewellery from my great grandmother dating back to the Victorian era which contained real butterfly wings. I have always been obsessed with butterflies and was instantly intrigued at how you can take something as fleeting as a butterfly wing and encapsulate it in an heirloom that can be passed down three generations.

butterfly wing heirloom jewellery from Victorian era

The beautiful heirloom pieces I inherited from my great grandmother.

I starting reading up about butterfly conservation and came across The Antennae Foundation. After a lengthy correspondence with them, I knew I wanted to find a way to support butterfly conservation by developing a range of high-end contemporary heirloom jewellery.

The Antennae Foundation.

2011
Creating the first prototype

The process of creating the jewellery we offer today wasn’t a simple one. I started off working with a jeweller to develop the first prototype. It took 6 months to complete and was a real technical challenge. I learnt a lot about the behaviour of precious metal during the casting process as well as the challenges of working with cut glass, engraving precious metal and setting butterfly wings.

The first wing we set was a shimmering Morpho butterfly wing. It literally took my breath away as the colour changed constantly as it interacted with light.

A retired engineer in Tokai builds a glass cutting machine in his garage capable of cutting glass that is 1mm thick for our signature pendants

 

We placed an order for our first butterfly wings. They are sourced from farming projects in 22 different countries. All aimed at protecting the biodiversity in the rainforests where these butterflies live.

 

In August 2011, we successfully registered the trademarks for our signature pendants.

2012
Expanding the range and building the brand

In 2012, I had metal dies made in Switzerland that could pierce precision shapes out of butterfly wings to ensure they would fit into our custom settings.

I then found a metal workshop in Salt River that welded these dies onto handles for me so we could use it to stamp shapes for the new Cabochon Collection. This would expand into a range of butterfly wing charms, rings and earrings using glass domes to cover the wings.

 

In the March of that year, I exhibited at my first Design Indaba Expo. It was a great platform for me to introduce the Papillon Belle brand into an international audience. I would continue to receive orders from customers all over the world years after meeting them at the expo.

Design Indaba Papillon Belle

One of our stand designs at the Design Indaba Expo.

In 2012 I also introduced the Skeleton Wing range. This was inspired by the intricate lines of a butterfly wing, and the final products are delicate, yet equally bold – just like the species they are designed to emulate.

The Skeleton Wing Range is crafted from solid sterling silver and offers yellow and rose gold plated pieces as well.

2013
My Papillon Belle wedding

It was a year later, in March of 2013 that I got married to the love of my life, and gifted Papillon Belle pendants, rings and earrings to the bridal party.

My Papillon Belle wedding.

2014
Expanding into textiles

I introduced our range of silk scarves in 2014 at the Design Indaba Expo. I did the illustrations myself creating kaleidoscopes from photographs of butterfly wings and printing these on 100% organic silk. The result is bold, vibrant and truly unique. I love wearing them as they are cool in summer and warm in winter and ads a colour pop to any outfit.

Launching our Silk Scarves at the Design Indaba Expo.

We celebrate the birth of our son

On 10 September 2014, my husband and I welcomed our first baby boy. Noah Campbell Westcott was born in Cape Town at 7am, weighing a healthy 3.3kg. To mark is birth, I set a wing from the beautiful Mimathyma Schrenckii in a single glass pendant and had the frame engraved with his name and birth date.

2015
Introducing the Botanical Range

The Botanical Range is inspired by the delicate relationship between butterflies and their host plants.

2016
Introducing the Stacking Bracelets

Wear them together or separately to create unique combinations.

2017
Introducing the Art Deco Collection

Celebrating the glamour of the Art Deco movement with this range of butterfly inspired pendants and earrings.

Introducing the Circle of Life Collection

The Circle of Life collection celebrates the continuous life cycle of the butterfly.

2018
Introducing the New Romance Collection

The New Romance collection is a range of earrings made from hand pierced butterfly wings combined with sparkling Cubic Zirconia stones set in sterling silver.

2019

We celebrate the birth of our twins

On 28 February 2019 we welcomed our twins Luna India and Miles David Westcott to the world.

Miles (Left) and Luna (right) were born on the 28th of February 2019 via emergency c-section at 35 weeks weighing 2.5 and 2.3 kgs respectively

It came as quite a shock and surprise to find out that we were expecting twins, as it was a natural pregnancy and we have no known history of twins in our families.

I quickly realised that the twins and my 5 year old son would be a full-time commitment for some time. As Papillon Belle is a part time passion project of mine and I am personally involved in all aspects of the business (from production, to marketing and distribution), I decided to take a hiatus so I could focus on my family. So as Papillon Belle prepared to enter its chrysalis phase, two new little butterflies were about to emerge.

What’s next for Papillon Belle?

In order to continue balancing my work and family life, I will be simplifying my offering and only create a small selection of pieces each month. I will also be reducing the amount of butterflies I source, so this means that the butterflies I have available may not become available again once they are sold out.

Make sure you sign up to my newsletter and follow me on Instagram or Facebook so I can keep you posted on any new stock that becomes available.

 

Thank you

I wanted to add a thank you here for all the support and interest I have received over the years. I am proud to have created this small, but significant business, which has brought so much attention to the importance of farming projects that supports biodiversity. I have met some incredible people along my journey who have loved Papillon Belle as much as I do. I look forward sharing the next chapter of this project with you.

xxx Audrey